NASA¹s Space Launch System rocket will launch with Orion atop it from Launch Complex 39B at NASA¹s modernized spaceport at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Photo: Nasa)
Amid reports of the Artemis mission to the Moon being delayed, Nasa is preparing the mega Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for its debut flight. The maiden flight will carry Artemis-1, an uncrewed mission, setting the stage for crewed flights with Artemis missions II, III, IV and V.
Pegged to be the most powerful rocket in the world and the only machine capable of sending the Orion spacecraft towards the Moon, the two solid rocket boosters and four RS-25 engines produce more than 8.8 million pounds of thrust beyond Earth's orbit and into the Moon's.
"The Space Launch System team is not just building one rocket but manufacturing several rockets for exploration missions and future SLS flights beyond the initial Artemis launch. The Artemis I mission is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will extend our presence on the Moon. The SLS rocket’s unprecedented power and capabilities will send missions farther and faster throughout the solar system,” John Honeycutt, SLS program manager said.
Nasa had in 2020 said that it is targeting February 2022 for the Artemis 1 launch with the vehicle in the final phase of launch preparations. The rocket features some of the largest, most advanced, and most reliable hardware elements ever built for space exploration.
The massive rocket will be rolled out in February with teams looking at the final date for the event. The SLS and Orion will journey to Launch Pad 39B atop the transporter-2crawler.
WHAT IS ARTEMIS-1 MISSION?
As part of the Artemis-1 mission, the spacecraft will launch on the most powerful rocket in the world and fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown. It will travel 280,000 miles from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the Moon over the course of about a four to six-week mission before returning home.
Nasa said that at liftoff, the core stage with its four RS-25 engines and the twin boosters will propel SLS off the launch pad into orbit. Once in orbit, the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) provides the in-space propulsion to send NASA’s Orion spacecraft and its crew on a precise trajectory toward the Moon.
"The Space Launch System is a highly capable launch vehicle purposely designed and rigorously tested to safely transport people, large cargo, and flagship science missions to deep space destinations," John Blevins, SLS chief engineer said.
With the Artemis missions, Nasa will land the first woman and the first person of colour on the Moon and establish long-term exploration in preparation for missions to Mars.